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Not guilty verdict in mock murder trial

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Not guilty verdict in mock murder trial

Prosecuting attorney Harmit Sanghera shows part of the evidence in her closing argument.

VINCE REMBULAT / The Bulletin/


POSTED March 2, 2014 11:46 p.m.

Mayra Posada and Marco Jaimes believe in the power of persuasion.

So much so that the two Weston Ranch High seniors looked forward to serving as the defense in the mock trial case of Shannon James Jacobson vs. the State of California.

On trial was Jacobson alias Shaky. The character was accused on first degree murder in the shooting death of Jerry Lee Lewis otherwise known as Sneaky Pete. The incident was played out in a Dec. 17 exercise in Joe Waller’s Careers in Law Enforcement classes, a Regional Occupational Program of the Manteca Unified School District.

Posada and Jaimes argued that their client – fellow WRHS senior Gilbert Lozoya was called on prior to the mock trial to fill the role of Shaky, according to Waller – acted in self defense during the Star Bar brawl.

The victim, Lewis, was listed at 270 pounds while Jacobson is “135 pounds soaking wet,” said Posada.

Harmit Sanghera and Vivek Kamboj were the prosecuting attorneys. Mock trial or not, they were in it to win it.

“We worked on this for two weeks,” said lead prosecutor Sanghera.

Leonardo Resendiz was the judge during the first block of the day – Waller had two more mock trials to do that day, including his Manteca High / East Union group that followed, concluding with his Sierra / Lathrop High students – while the jury was made up predominantly of MUSD employees.

Waller credited Superintendent Jason Messer’s office and Kathy Ruble, MUSD school of careers / ROP coordinator, for providing the guest jurors.

Victoria Brunn had jury duty for the second straight year. The district’s coordinator for sustainability and energy education was back, serving this time as the foreman.

The verdict needed only a majority vote. Brunn, who knew about the mock trial case based on last year’s experience, was instructed to hold back during deliberations and to “just go along with the process,” Waller said.

Like a regular court proceeding, the defense and prosecution had their opening statements, closing arguments and provided several eye witnesses. Included were the likes of Dan Drano, Dr. Kildare, Dr. Cutthroat, and Jacobson’s fiancé Jacky Daniels.

“We were pretty determined (to win this case),” said Jaimes, who played the role of an instigator in the barroom brawl exercise.

He and Posada made a convincing argument on behalf of their client.

“I know this is mock but you have the power in your voice to persuade people,” Posada said.

As for the verdict, the jury came back with a 9-3 not-guilty vote.

“I thought guilty but I had some doubt in my mind (on the first-degree murder charge),” said juror Steve Dresser, who voted with the majority.

Waller, who has coordinated the mock trial for 14 years, was interested in the verdict for his other two classes. Usually, he found that the morning block sets the trend.

Last year, all three of his classes voted not guilty. The prior year, they voted guilty.

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